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The Iceman - Review

The Iceman

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

MICHAEL Shannon delivers yet another powerhouse performance in The Iceman, a compelling thriller based on the true story of Mob hitman Richard Kuklinski.

By the time he was imprisoned in 1986 Kuklinski claimed to have killed 100 men (although that figure could be more than double according to some reports) and had earned the nick-name ‘The Iceman’ because of the lack of remorse he displayed.

Yet Kuklinski was also a family man whose wife and two children never knew what he did until his arrest.

Ariel Vromen’s film examines Kuklinski’s story from around the time he first met his wife, Deborah (Winona Ryder), and his recruitment by Mob boss Roy Demeo (Ray Liotta) to his eventual arrest.

And thanks to Shannon’s towering central performance, it is a never less than riveting experience, albeit one that doesn’t always tell the whole story surrounding Kuklinski’s darkness (which allegedly did extend to his family at some points and which also involved serial killing tendencies).

Shannon, having immersed himself into Kuklinski’s psychology after watching over 20 hours of interview footage, attempts to gain some empathy for him, tapping into a tormented individual whose violent compulsion was born out of childhood abuse and an inability to switch his dark side off.

The actor has stated in interview that he believes Kuklinski did have remorse and may well even have wanted to get caught in the end and so expertly weaves this ideology into a performance that combines ice-cold ruthlessness with inner turmoil and even the capacity for love and devotion in his scenes with Ryder. It is a mesmerising performance that justifies his growing reputation as one of the richest acting talents around today.

There’s equally eye-catching support, too, from the likes of Ryder and Liotta, as well as David Schwimmer (almost unrecognisable as a moustache bearing, pony-tailed Mobster), Chris Evans (sporting similarly feature-hiding amounts of hair), Robert Davi (as another Mob boss) and James Franco (in a token role as one of Kuklinski’s more memorable victims).

Vromen’s direction, meanwhile, manages to create tension without pandering to audience baiting tactics and never glamourises the lifestyle as some Mob movies do. Rather, he paints a grim picture in which fear, uncertainty and mistrust are the order of the day, and where victims are despatched with cold blooded efficiency.

If there’s a criticism, it’s that Vromen could have allowed the film a little more time in which to fully explore the Kuklinski character (thereby allowing Shannon an even greater platform upon which to exercise his talent), and preventing the film from feeling a little less episodic in places.

But in the main this is a first-rate thriller powered by a leading man on unmissable form.

Michael Shannon interview

Certificate: 15
Running time: 105mins
UK Release Date: June 7, 2013